A wake-up call in Mooseville
June 14, 2013
"Dang! It's dangerous over there. Moose humpings and maulings … Wow!"
It's an email I received recently from an out-of-town colleague.
Of course, he's referring to the recent statue incident involving a bull moose, the video of which I am told has gone viral, and an even more recent incident of a cow moose charging a 60-year old Grand Lake woman. For reasons of "human safety," Colorado Parks and Wildlife euthanized the cow and her calf.
The emailer wasn't even referring to another cow moose and her two calves just two weeks prior hanging out at the town's public beachfront attracting hoards of gawkers.
To think, just this spring Grand Lake was working hard on a marketing scheme involving a video of a biped faux-furred "Bruce the Moose" in hopes it would help publicize the town. Who needs props when the real deal is doing quite the job on its own?
Granted, "maulings" cannot be construed as positive publicity.
Many are saddened by the recent event that resulted in the taking of two animals. We can only be grateful the situation did not result in even more loss. The woman Sue Rogers thankfully did not share the same fate of one who lost his life to the power of this animal seven years ago. A deranged bull moose kicked a fatal blow to Grand Lake's "town father" Louis Heckert as Heckert walked to church one Sunday morning.
Each year, it seems, we are reminded of this fragile cohabitation we have with neighboring wildlife.
And Sue Rogers' incident is a stark reminder that wildlife has about as much inherent risk around us as we have around it.
The instinctual acts of wild animals in reaction to us and our domestic furry friends ultimately can get them killed.
Rogers made a great mistake in walking her dog near the moose and her calf, according to the district wildlife manager's account of the incident.
"She should have known better," people are now saying. "Shame on you," they say. "Why wasn't she ticketed?," people are asking.
But before you crucify her for not being respectful of the animal, I ask, how many of us have taken a wildlife risk at one point or another?
How many of us have hiked or taken a walk with a dog off leash?
Rogers' Labradoodle was leashed.
How many of us have taken a photo of a wild animal at distance closer than one should?
How many of us have left trash out, or left trash in an unsecured bin, or left birdseed in the bird feeder? A dog's bowl on the porch? The dog on the porch?
How many of us have taken a gamble and gotten away with these oversights, not truly grasping the extent of their potential harm?
It was Rogers' biggest fault that day, rolling the dice, thinking she could escape without the moose noticing her or her dog.
But her Labradoodle had an altogether contrary mission to protect her, and it barked to the point the moose got up to fiercely protect her own calf.
Rogers was picking up her dog at a dogsitter's house that day. The sitter warned Rogers of the moose and her calf out front, bedded down in the grass.
Rogers chose to risk it, and left with her dog, walking within 10 to 15 feet of the moose.
That choice ultimately sent her to the hospital. The Labradoodle was unharmed.
The moose and her calf, however, paid the ultimate price. If only Parks and Wildlife could make decisions on a case-by-case basis rather than in compliance with blanket policy, perhaps this could have ended differently. But the agency errs on the side of caution, putting human safety before life of a wild animal. We as humans, choosing to live and play here where there have been and will be moose, elk, bear, fox, mountain lion and coyote, are forced to stomach these cold realities.
We are not meant to live among them. Conflicts inevitably will arise.
Parks and Wildlife followed its policy: animals that come in violent contact with humans must be taken out of the equation. "Certainly, it is not our preference to put down these types of wildlife," said wildlife manager Scott Murdoch, "but for concern for human safety, that is our policy. I can assure you, that is not a decision we take lightly." The calf was put down along with the mother because it would have been difficult to rehab that animal successfully. A moose raised at the hand of humans could become a future danger just because of its comfort being around humans. The regrettable act was quick; neither animal suffered, Murdoch said.
And Rogers was not cited. The agency cites people generally with the goal of enforcing appropriate behavior. The fact the woman was injured and taken away by ambulance should be enough to recalibrate her future behavior.
And it's a serious wake-up call for the rest of us too.